My first blog ‘Keeping It Together’ came to a natural end when I moved in to my studio. ‘Keeping It Going’ picks up where that left off. Will I be able to maintain a blog at the same time as being creative in the studio? Will it help or hinder my practice as an artist?

www.katemurdochartist.com

Follow me on Twitter: @katemurdochart

August 2016: See also my new blog, ‘Keeping It Moving’

https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/keeping-it-moving


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‘Objects of Desire’

It’s always a delight to be reintroduced to something you loved and had completely forgotten about, as happened yesterday. It was while I was thinking about titles for a small body of work that the words ‘objects of desire’ came to mind. Maybe subconsciously, I was remembering Matthew Sweet’s programme on Radio Four, a series I had listened to some time ago. I really enjoyed it.

Whatever, I was pleased to be reacquainted with ‘Objects of Desire’ – it fits very neatly into my current research around objects through my involvement in The Museum for Object Research, created by Sonia Boue. Here’s a link to five episodes of ‘Objects of Desire’ :

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07zhp4v/episodes/player

Even the programme’s titles drew me in – The Nest, The Unlovely, Order and Territory and so on, conjuring up all sorts of narratives about the wonder and fascination of objects and how they define us. Revisiting the programmes has also reminded me of my own ‘unlovely’ collection which, like so much of my stuff, is currently tucked away in boxes. All a matter of taste, of course, but I’ve always envisaged showing (what I consider to be) these rather hideous and ugly objects in an ornate display cabinet – raising their profile from the unlovely to something more beautiful, perhaps. It’s open to debate, but it’s often said that there is beauty to be found in most things …


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‘The subject of our mortality is one that has always fascinated me -the fragility of life versus the permanence of objects, in particular …’

 

A Facebook memory popped up on my timeline over the weekend and made me want to touch base with my ‘Keeping It Going’ blog again. The memory showed a photo of a piece of work that was inspired by objects which belonged to my late Nana. The memory also included a blog post from the same period and it was fascinating to recap and go back two years in time, particularly in terms of world news – politics, specifically. So much has happened!

‘Nana’s Colours’ Part of an ongoing series of assemblage work in tribute to a dear grandmother.

 

But, as well as what’s been going on globally, the blog post also reminded me about how much of my creative work continues to focus around the life of my late grandmother (Nana) and the many objects associated with the home in which she lived for some 70 years.

It also made me think about my recent involvement in an Arts Council funded project, The Museum for Object Research, created and led by artist Sonia Boue. The proposal I submitted for the Museum sums up the way in which the ‘Nana’s Colours’ body of work began and continues to evolve; how the mass of objects that make up my own personal collection provides the vast majority of raw material for creating work. The proposal I submitted to The Museum for Object Research is very relevant to the overall theme of my work with objects and for this reason, I have included it here:

I propose to build on an existing body of work, ‘Nana’s Colours’ which was inspired by the small collection of things that I gathered from my Nana’s home when she was finally forced to leave it. In the five years since my Nana’s death, I have combined the various items I rescued from her home with others from my extensive lifetime collection to create small assemblage works.

The source material is diverse – china, glassware, fabrics, soaps, powders, paper, plastics and so on – but the objects selected are all steeped in social history and speak volumes about my Nana’s identity, age and social standing and of course, my relationship with her.

The small celebratory assemblages are an ongoing testimony to the relatively simple existence my Nana lived in a small Cambridgeshire village. She lived until the grand age of 102 and the work demonstrates how much life has changed over the past century, particularly in relation to the things we own nowadays – the things we have in our homes and make use of.

Examining my late Nana’s objects in this respect is extremely poignant, homing in on deep-rooted childhood memories around family and relationships – love and loss. The objects still exist – my Nana sadly, no longer does. The subject of our mortality is one that has always fascinated me – the fragility of life versus the permanence of objects, in particular. The objects live on, our emotional attachments projected onto them, and become enriched with the assorted narratives and stories surrounding them.

The Museum for Object Research touches on a recurring theme in my work around the question of value and worth. What is an object ‘worth?’ How do we put a price on certain items? As it stands alone, a used powder puff has no monetary value. If however, it’s one that my Nana used, then it becomes imbued with a highly personal history and narrative. Its emotional value is enormous – it’s worth an awful lot to me. People pay thousands of pounds for John Lennon’s glasses, or even Elvis’s hairdryer. Shouldn’t objects that belonged to ‘ordinary’ people be celebrated too?

                                                    *******

The end of summer 2017 is set to be an eventful and symbolic time; my twin sons leaving for respective universities will undoubtedly have a big impact on the amount of spare time I’m going to have. It will be a time of massive change and readjustment for all of us as a family and only time will tell how much of my sons’ leaving will affect my creative output. I’ll be back at some point in the future to report back, I’m sure …

In the meantime, you can read more about The Museum for Object Research – the premise behind the project, the participating artists and so on – by following this link:

https://museumforobjectresearch.wordpress.com/


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When there is despair, the people from the far right take advantage. We must say that another world is possible and necessary.’

Ken Loach, May 2016

I included this quote in a blog post here last May (2016). One year on and the quote feels particularly pertinent in relation to how people chose to vote in this year’s snap election, called by Theresa May. It certainly feels relevant enough to share again, anyway.

It’s just four days on and there has already been much analysis of the 2017 election results. In simple terms, it seems to me that people have had enough of austerity and cuts to our public services; large numbers of people turned out to vote for a very different vision of society. Theresa May as a result didn’t get the majority she needed to press ahead with her austerity measures – the desire for ‘another world’ as articulated above by Ken Loach, feels palpable.

Last year, Ken Loach openly criticised the UK’s existing welfare system in his acceptance speech at the Palme d’Or awards for his film, ‘I, Daniel Blake.’ His attack on what he described as the government’s ‘dangerous project of austerity’ was a very public one and became widely distributed on social media.

My ongoing ‘Bread and Roses’ work was created in response to the 2015 General Election result; it has gone on to reflect the ‘dangerous project of austerity’ as coined by Loach and acts as a visual reminder of the impact of neglect.

The full blog post can be read here:

https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/keeping-it-going-1/date/2016/05

It’s less than a month since I made a decision to take a bit of a back seat from writing this blog. I really thought I would, but we’re living in such an extraordinary period of British history and I felt compelled to get back here to document what’s been going on.

These are fascinating, remarkable times, as outlined in Anthony Sheldon’s morning-after election analysis in The Telegraph:

‘The General Election on Thursday was the most extraordinary in British history since modern elections began in 1918. We’ve had some exciting votes, from the closer than expected result of 2010 to the transformational victories of Clement Attlee, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair in 1945, 1979 and 1997. But I’ve known nothing like 2017 in the dozen elections I have lived through since February 1974 for sheer unpredictability, drama and emotion.’

I’ve also added an update on “Bread and Roses’ on the latest page of my website which can be read here:

http://www.katemurdochartist.com/latest.html


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Despite a recent decision to let blog writing take a bit of a back seat, I feel compelled to record details of two exhibitions I managed to see on a recent fleeting visit to Cambridge, both of which left a lasting impression. The first was the ‘Nasty Women’ exhibition in which I had work included.

Nasty Women is a global art movement, originating in the USA, serving to:

‘ …demonstrate solidarity among artists who identify with being a Nasty Woman in the face of threats to roll back women’s rights, individual rights and abortion rights.’

When an opportunity came up to take part in a ‘Nasty Women’ exhibition in Cambridge, my home town, it seemed highly appropriate. Cambridge is the place where I grew up as a young woman in the 1970s – where I socialised and where I was educated. It’s also a place where I first became politically active, particularly in the Women’s Movement. I have vivid memories of boarding a train from Cambridge to London, alongside dozens of other women, to protest against MP John Corrie’s restrictive Bill against abortion. The Corrie bill, as it became known, wanted to reduce the time limit drastically, and restrict the grounds of how a woman could procure an abortion. It’s incredible to think that my recent return to Cambridge essentially involved protecting the same rights for women, as I did in 1979!

I was particularly drawn to the work of artist Lisa O’Donnell, photographed below, when I visited ArtSpace in Cambridge.  This work highlights the 8th Amendment, which refers to the constitutional ban on abortion in Ireland. This particular piece of work (‘Repeal the 8th Amendment’) according to a comment left on the ‘Nasty Women Cambridge’ Facebook page by a friend of the artist ‘…is telling the story of Ann Lovett, an Irish girl who died in her school uniform giving birth to a baby at a grotto in Ireland in 1984.’

I was delighted to manage to also see Issam Kourbaj’s exhibition, ‘LOST.’ It is an extraordinary body of work – poignant and moving – and set in the amazing environment of the Museum of Classical Archaeology.

The exhibition continues until June 9th

Further details here:

http://www.classics.cam.ac.uk/…/exhibitions/exhibitions/lost


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Keeping It Moving’ the blog I wrote while making the short film with Henrietta Thomas, was very much about recording the process & final outcome of a specific piece of work. It was created for the sole purpose of documenting the making of ‘I Always Wanted To Be …’ and was a very different experience from writing this one. I didn’t find the more formulaic way of writing – kind of diary style – half as enjoyable, it has to be said. This got me thinking about blog writing in general – and then, specifically, what writing this blog, ‘Keeping It Going’ means to me now, five years on. What purpose does it serve? Is it useful? Still?

The main premise behind ‘Keeping It Going’ was about discovering whether I could manage to maintain it at the same time as being creative in the studio. After five years of maintaining both, I’ve answered that question, I think. What’s happened is that writing the blog has become an integral part of my creative process and has gone hand in hand with producing work. But big changes have taken place since I first started writing it and I’m thinking it’s time for a change in the way I approach things.

Last year felt momentous for me in terms of getting my collections pretty much in one place for the first time in some 20/30 years. 100+ boxes of ‘treasures’ from my past, though labelled and in some sort of order, still need sifting through and editing. I’m eager to get a more thorough grip on what’s where – to reacquaint myself with the many objects that form much of the raw materials for the work I make.

And that’s the crux of it all for me, really – that I’d like to get away from this feeling of going round and round in circles, repeating myself in my writing here – largely about how much I’d like to get the stuff I’ve collected over the years, finally organised. There are only so many times you can write that! This blog is full of such sentiments – a sharp reminder that it’s probably time to stop writing about what I want to do and just get on with doing it!

At the end of last week, while in the process of applying for an exhibition opportunity, I realised that I had included images of a few pieces of work on my blog and yet don’t have a record of them anywhere else. I’d forgotten about a couple of pieces, in fact! I’d like to address this and get my work properly documented, including improved images. I’ve been thinking about it since the start of the year and my plan is to free up more time by taking a break from writing this blog. I’m not very good at just leaving things to peter out, I’ve realised and in this respect, prefer to take some properly defined time out. I’m not declaring this blog completely redundant but for now, it feels important to step back a bit and release time to get on with the things I never seem to find the time to do.

Another more recent development is that I now have a really inspiring place to bring my ‘treasures’ back to, having secured myself a new improved studio space at the end of 2016. I can imagine myself continuing to work much more effectively in this lighter, more spacious environment and given that artists’ studios can be such precarious entities, I want to take full advantage of using it as much as I possibly can – a) while I can afford it (just!) and b) while it’s still there!

I’ll probably want to report back at some point – keen to share images of the many ready-made materials and objects as I uncover them from the 100+ storage boxes, photographing & documenting them along the way. It’s hard to imagine that I won’t, in fact! Having become so accustomed to sharing every new piece of developing work over the past five years, it’s going to be a hard habit to break. But for now, even if on a temporary basis, it feels that this blog has run its course. Perhaps I might start a photo blog? Allow images of the assorted objects to stand alone? This would fit well with my recent thinking about how I’d like to make work without necessarily writing about it or revealing any associated narrative. But that’s a whole other blog post, I think – a discussion for another time, perhaps – in a new blog, sometime in the not too distant future? Who knows!

What I do know though, is that every creative practice needs a shake up now and again – to prevent it from becoming stale and stagnated. I’m looking forward to this new phase – a new beginning and a fresh approach. ‘A change is as good as a rest’ as the adage goes. Well, that’s my hope, anyway …


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